One Frequent Flyer Program Makes it Harder to Use Miles Than Any Other

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On Monday One Mile at a Time noted that Garuda Indonesia wants to fly from Jakarta to Los Angeles via Tokyo in 2017.

I have to say that the first class onboard their Boeing 777-300ER looks fantastic. I really do want to try it.

There’s virtually no competition for redeeming first class awards on SkyTeam member Garuda Indonesia. Delta miles, of course, cannot be used for international first class.

Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer directly to the GarudaMiles program. Great news for Citi Prestige Card cardholders.

And their award chart (.pdf) is even reasonable. Each Garuda route is priced separately, and roughly based on distance. Economy awards start at 4000 miles each way and business starts at 7000 miles each way.

The shortest first class redemptions are 45,000 miles one-way, and upgrades from business to first are roughly half the cost of an award. Longer flights do get pricey in first class.

  • Jakarta – Syndey is 90,000 miles one-way in first class
  • Jakarta – Abu Dhabi is 105,000 miles one-way in first class
  • Jakarta – London is 190,00 miles one-eway in first class

If you’re earning Citi ThankYou points at 3 points per dollar on airfare and hotel spend, and double points on restaurant and entertainment spend, you can get there reasonably fast (especially considering the 50,000 point signup bonus for the Citi Prestige Card (after $3000 in purchases within 3 months, offer expired).

The problem is the byzantine redemption process for GarudaMiles awards. It’s “award redemption in six easy steps.”

I mentioned some of the challenges with the program back in January.

  • You can call Garuda Indonesia or go in person to a ticket office to set up your reservation.

  • Then you need to complete an award ticket application form downloadable from the website.

  • You have to submit this form, a valid ID, and your original GarudaMiles membership card (note: you therefore cannot simply sign up for the program and redeem – wait for that card!) to the staff at the Garuda Indonesia Sales Office.

  • Then claim the award ticket in person at the sales office. You can send someone to have the award ticket issued in person for you, but if you do you must provide them “with a legally valid letter of authority”

It’s precisely because of this process that I haven’t gone through the ordeal of issuing award tickets with Garuda Indonesia myself. These are the only ticket offices in the U.S.:

Perhaps there are readers that have used the GarudaMiles program, and have found that things go more smoothly in practice.

There are programs like ANA and Korean Air that limit you to redeeming your miles for family members. And even require proof, which involves paperwork. But I don’t know of any international airline serving multiple continents and that’s a member of a global alliance whose award redemption process is quite so challenged.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t think 190,000 miles for Jakarta – London in first class is reasonable.
    In fact, I think it’s really expensive.
    I reasonable amount would be more like 100,000 miles one-way, and not 190,000.

  2. …except that it’s “California” not “Los Angeles”. As a SFO-based flyer, I find that both amusing and unhelpful. A set of things that includes Houston, New York, and California makes the software engineer in me cringe.

  3. This is a ridiculous process, although since the California office is 3 miles from where I live I may have to start padding my ThankYou points. Also, they misspelled “Ventura Boulevard”…

  4. I’ve only lived here for a few years, but I’m pretty sure California is not a city.

  5. How is this any more difficult than the requirements for booking a Star Alliance award using Turkish Miles&Smiles?

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